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"Honky" by Dalton Conley - Kapitelzusammenfassungen (Summaries)

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Dalton ConleyHonky

Dalton Conley, the author of the autobiography “Honky”, portrays his rather unusual childhood. As a white kid he lives within a “black neighbourhood” in Manhatten, facing many difficulties and having a variety of problems. From his nowadays sociologist’s point of view he comments on his experiences he made as a child and a teenager.
Table of Contents
Table Of Contents 1
Summaries 2
C h a p t e r s
Black Babies 2
Downward Mobility
Race Lessons 3
Learning Class 4
The Hawk
Getting Paid
Sesame Street 5
Welcome to America
No Soap Radio
Moving On Up
Disco Sucks
Addictions 6
Cultural Capital 7

1 Black Babies
The almost-3-year-old white boy Dalton Conley whose mother Ellen is a writer and pregnant at that time and whose father Stephen (Steve) is a painter, makes two important experiences concerning babies. First, he claims for a baby sister in the supermarket and then “kidnaps” a girl himself. Not caring about skin color but longing for a female sibling, he picks the daughter of black separatists who live in the same house. They are searched by the FBI some months later and escape at night.
(Short comment: In my opinion, both the supermarket and the kidnapping situation are well chosen to offer the reader an interesting and amusing start into the topic of racial and cultural difficulties. Extensive reading is possible although the language level is quite high.)

2 Trajectories
Dalton reveals some theories about the question how and why, in 1968, his parents chose to live in a federal housing project (Mararyk Towers) in Lower East Side, Manhattan, instead of buying a more comfortable loft in SoHo. Being only three weeks old, Dalton almost dies from spinal meningitis but is luckily saved by his very encouraged mother who has medicinal knowledge.
(More keywords/background information: Pennsylvania, grandparents’ relative wealth as security, flower box movement, adopting Alfonso)
(Short comment: This chapter gives an answer to my very first question that came to my mind when I thought about the book the first time: Why is this white family living in such a community? What are the reasons? However, actually the author is not sure himself and offers several possibilities.
Some passages are difficult to read, as there are many new locations, family history facts and details to comprehend and memorize.)

3 Downward Mobility
In chapter three Dalton first tells the readers about his neighborhood, the projects, and describes three of its most striking signs of poverty: graffiti everywhere, the Con Edison plant (“separating” the projects from the rest of the world) and the slum buildings itself.

Next, he depicts his parents’ past:
For his mother’s family, who settled in Pennsylvania, their Jewish origin played a great role. As Ellen is engaged in racial issues (but oblivious to class and status) she became a civil rights activist after having moved to NY. Then, she spent some time in Haiti working as a medical assistant. Finally, back in NY, she tried to find inspiration for her stories.
His father Steve, influenced by his “class-rebelling” mother, who was a hard-working and therefore independent woman but died in poverty, attended an arts school. When Dalton’s grandfather, who owned some companies, went broke, Steve moved to New York trying to become an abstract painter. He had some badly-paid jobs, e.g. “canvas remover”, and started his still biggest hobby: horse races.

4 Race Lessons
Dalton and his sister Alexandra attended a federally subsidized nursery school. Frequently, both are confronted with being different because of their white skin, and they learned that race defines whether someone may belong to a certain group.
One Christmas, Alexandra’s present, a white Barbie doll, caused jealousy and trouble among the kids. Also, she and her best friend Adoonie envied each other’s hairstyles.
At his first educational “station”, a public school, Dalton gets to know classroom segregation. Having chosen the black class, in which everyone except him is corporally punished, he feels very uncomfortable. Consequently, he first switches to the Chinese class and then his mother lets him change school which he reached by school bus.
There, Dalton faced his new classmates’ pecking order: class instead of race was most important for them.

5 Fear
At home, Dalton is overprotected by his mother during his whole childhood. She tells her children how to behave in dangerous situations; their flat has a steel door and window guards after a criminal broke in. All these precautions scare Dalton even more.
Due to his mother he stops playing his favourite game “manhunt” as he feels very embarrassed in front of the other kids when she found him (since he had to clean up his room).
Wanting to feel safer, he takes karate lessons but has to experience that even his (black) teacher Rahim could not help being assassinated. Dalton is convinced that crime follows a particular pattern.

6 Learning Class
At Greenwich Village School, Dalton’s situation changes: He doesn’t stand out any more because the majority is white, too. When he gets to know Michael and Ozan, he has to manage their conversation by improvising, that is pretending to know what they are speaking about. Actually knowing very little about Carter or Ford, Dalton even “takes place” in a schoolyard political rally. Almost all pupils “vote” for the Democrat Carter, having liberal parents and being “corrupted” with doughnuts.
Michael brings many new issues to Dalton who starts making lists, e.g. concerning mathematics. He tries to solve unsolved problems.
He also becomes aware of the factor that determines a pupil’s position in the pecking order and his or her self-worth: the family background.

7 The Hawk
Having learned the “language” of class, Dalton begins to develop a feeling of superiority over the other project kids. When they try to tease him with “mommy-jokes” he does not react and remarks the power of silence.
During sleepovers at Michael Holt’s house, he gradually becomes familiar with “luxury food” such as really fresh vegetables. Almost everything is different but not always better than at home: The house resembles a museum and the Holts’ educational methods seem oppressive to Dalton. But being ashamed both of his neighborhood (and vice versa of Michael, too) it takes a while to persuade Dalton to invite his friend. Finally, he gives in but starts cleaning the area around his apartment. When Michael arrives, there is a special situation which Dalton wants to make use of: Everyone is watching a hawk flying above the flats. But Michael notices a pile of broken electronics and is soon surrounded by some black kids, so Dalton feels outdone.

8 Getting Paid
As Dalton’s parents have certain principles concerning spending money, he has problems to join the other kids’ world of consumption. Trying to handle this uncomfortable situation he first takes his “mugging money” to buy fast food and comic books. But next, he even steals two chocolate bars and a comic. His very bad conscience makes him confess the shoplifting. His mother lends money to Dalton, forces him to go to the store and to apologize. He has to work off his debts by helping in the household and continues earning money this way. But he has to quit his new job at a store called “Candy kisses” after the school principal complained about “child labour”.

9 Sesame Street
Each summer, the Conleys travel to Pennsylvania. For Dalton, their trip always meant leaving his baseball team. Once, just before the journey, he tries joining some black kids playing baseball in the park and gets into trouble when asking for his glove back. The biggest boy, Sean, threatens him with a knife and doesn’t let him go until they hear a siren.

10 Welcome to America
Carbondale in Pennsylvania, the place Dalton’s family spends their summer vacation, is a former coal mining area whose local industry changed to postindustrial economy. In addition to agriculture, there are weapon producing companies.
People are very friendly and neither used to the Conley kids’ swear words nor to loud music. Alexandra encounters racism at a sleepover party and at her summer school in Carbondale. Dalton, who cares as a Boy Scout for a group of mentally disabled kids, gets into “religious” problems when he is supposed to attend the local churches mass but adapts well by imitating everything.
11 No Soap Radio
At high school, Dalton gets to know a new form of grouping: cliques.
Once, he and his new black friend Marcus are told a “no soap radio” joke. Dalton is irritated and laughs at it (although it is not meant to be funny). This kind of joke, in contrast to the “mommy-jokes”, makes a person look stupid. One day, Dalton tries teasing Marcus by telling the “No Soap Radio” joke. They end up fighting. Dalton wins but is taken to the principal; their friendship is broken.

12 Moving On Up
After Dalton’s mother has sold her first novel because of transforming the settings into richer ones, their financial situation gets better. So, they make a trip to Columbia where the family encounters local poverty and crime.
Dalton’s father has sacrificed his free-time for a part-time job at the Time magazine and earns additional money. Also, the two siblings even get school material for free.

13 Disco Sucks
During his daily bus ride to school Dalton meets his new, best friend Jerome, who is a black boy, smiles a lot and walks in an unusual proudly way.
Once, Sean challenges them to participate in bus riding but Dalton, who swore to his mother not to do it, refuses. Jerome saves the situation by telling a lie.
He also helps his friend when there is a selection of party-music at school. The students are divided into a “black camp” liking Disco music and a white one preferring rock music: Dalton is very insecure, but he may sit down next to Jerome joining the black Disco side which is outvoted because the whites are the majority.

14 Addictions
Jerome and Dalton, whose friendship becomes stronger, often play video games at a store after school. Having jointly bought a sweatshirt of high quality, Dalton soon sells his part to Jerome as he needs more money for his new addiction – computer games.
The lack of money makes him stealing from his family. Also, Dalton convinces Jerome of cutting school together and he even forges a signature on his report card. Sean asks him to help him with getting better at playing, so he feels very good. But then his mother catches him; his crime and especially his lies disappoint her enormously.

15 Symmetry
In this chapter the author explains how he developed the obsessive behavior of keeping everything symmetrical, in particular to kiss people (and even things) twice. It has been his reaction to the terrible incident that his best friend Jerome is shot and therefore paralyzed. Puberty confuses him as well, so he develops several tics trying to protect all the people he loves.

16 Fire
Dalton takes karate lessons again, together with his Latino friend Raphael who lives next to their teacher in a wealthier neighborhood. After school before karate they play a game called “fire-/waterman”, invented by Raphael, which is about lighting matches and putting it out with a water bottle. One match, thrown by Dalton because of his obsession, causes a fire in the apartment. The two kids are saved by their karate teacher and “real firemen”. Leaving out the detail about “his” match setting off the fire, it is declared an accident. Although Dalton is not punished, he learned a lot from it.
17 Cultural Capital
Dalton’s mother makes big efforts to find an apartment in a safer area.
Steve and his kids refuse considering moving to Roosevelt Island. They feel very attached to their “old” neighborhood. Finally, the Conleys, who are subsidized because of being artists, move into the Westbeth complex where mainly white people with middle-class status live.
In spite off all advantages, i.e. his parents’ “Cultural Capital”, which, for example, allows him to attend a better school by using a friend’s address, Dalton is an outsider.
After having been called “socially awkward”, he discovers that acceptance is not only about race or class but very much about personality.
Das Buch "Honky" von Dalton Conley enthält 17 Kapitel, die in dieser Datei alle jeweils in wenigen Sätzen (auf Englisch) zusammengefasst wurden.

Honky ist autobiografisch und handelt von einem weißen Jungen, der in einem Viertel in New York aufwächst, wo nahezu nur Farbige wohnen.

Inklusive Inhaltsverzeichnis (Table of Contents) und Kurzbeschreibung des Buches. (2047 Wörter)
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